6 Resources and Tips for your Military and Veteran Home Buyers

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Buying a new house is an exciting and rewarding, yet stressful experience. So for new home buyers, working with a real estate agent or REALTOR® that understands their specific needs is incredibly important. Agents can help their clients navigate the home buying process and reduce the stress that comes with it.

This is even more crucial for military service members looking to purchase a new home. Military service members relocate much more frequently than the average home buyer. According to the Department of Defense (DoD), 1 out of 3 military service members experience a permanent change of station (PCS) move each year. 

Military service members and veteran home buyers also often have more specific needs than typical home buyers. For example, many active duty service members have a small window of time in which they need to relocate. So they might not have the ability to spend weeks or months searching for the perfect home. Veterans interested in buying a new home with a VA loan also need to make sure that they meet the eligibility requirements. 

If you’re a real estate agent or REALTOR® looking for resources and tips to bring back to your military and veteran clients, look no further. This guide goes over 6 key resources available for military service members and veteran home buyers:

  1. Military Service Member and Veteran Moving Discounts 
  2. Buying a Home with a VA-Backed Loan
  3. Disability Housing Grants for Veterans
  4. More VA Housing Services and Support
  5. Protections from The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) 
  6. Work with a Veteran-Friendly Real Estate Agent

 

Military Service Member and Veteran Moving Discounts

Active duty military service members have the option to use a military moving company paid for by the government when they need to relocate. But, they can also choose to do a personally procured move (PPM), also called a do-it-yourself (DITY) move. The circumstances surrounding each military move are different. However, here are a few benefits of a PPM for your military client to consider before they decide what type of move to make.

One advantage of PPM moves is that the government will reimburse the military service member for the cost of the move. More specifically, individuals will get paid up to 95% of what it would have cost the government to move them. It’s important to note that this may not always cover 100% of the PPM moving costs. But if your client is a smart and efficient mover, their PPM move may cost less than the government is paying them.

Another added benefit to PPM moves is if your client spends less than the government is paying them—they get to keep the rest. And who doesn’t like a little extra money in their pocket after a big move? 

There are several moving companies that offer military discounts if your client decides to do a PPM move. This includes rental truck companies, movers, and short-term and long-terms storage providers. For example, Penske Truck Rental offers military service members and veterans a 10% discount on truck rental.

Here’s a list of companies you can share with your military and veteran clients: 

  • PODS
  • Penske Truck Rental 
  • U-Pack
  • Budget Truck Rental
  • Storage Rentals of America
  • SMARTBOX
  • Life Storage
  • CubeSmart
  • uShip
  • GoMini’s

Some moving companies may not advertise any discounts on their website, but may offer discounts voluntarily. So it never hurts to ask! 

Buying a Home with a VA-Backed Loan

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has some fantastic housing assistance resources for veterans. A VA-backed-purchase loan is one of them.

Veterans that are eligible for a VA backed loan (check here to see if you are) can get a loan from a private lender that’s partially guaranteed by the VA. This allows the private lender to offer more favorable loan terms. For example, this may include the option to not pay a downpayment or have more competitive interest rates. 

But the process of applying for and getting a VA-backed purchase loan is no walk in the park. Veterans first need to see if they qualify for a VA-backed home loan. If they do, they can then obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to present to the private lender. Make sure you walk through the different steps below with your veteran client so they know what to expect. 

Steps to start home buying process with VA-backed loan | AgentAdvice.com

Source 

Seasoned real estate professionals confirm that a VA-backed loan is one of the best resources available for veteran home buyers. 

Christian Saunders real estate | AgentAdvice.com

“The best thing a veteran can do right now is apply for a VA backed home loan. To meet the requirements for a VA loan, you must:

  • Have served for 24 continuous months
  • Served for 181 days before honorable discharge
  • Or have currently served for at least 90 days

Spouses of prisoners of war or a servicemember who is missing in action are also eligible to apply for a VA home loan.” 

~ Christian Saunders | Broker of Record and Manager | Christian Saunders Real Estate Brokerage 

Disability Housing Grants for Veterans and Service Members

Another great VA resource for military service members and veteran home buyers and owners is the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant. These grants can be used to make improvements so that a home can accommodate a service-related disability. For example, this may include making doorways wider or installing ramps to make a property more wheelchair accessible. 

SAH grants can also be put towards buying or building a ‘permanent home’, i.e. a place your client plans on living long-term. 

The two grant eligibility requirements veterans and service members must meet are: 

  • They must be the owner of the current or soon-to-be-purchased home
  • They must have a military-service-related disability (see the VA website for this list) 

According to the VA, grant recipients can receive up to $90,364 in the 2020 fiscal year. But this amount changes each year. For veterans or service members that have lost one extremity after September 11, 2001, the number of grant recipients is currently capped at 30 recipients per year.

Special Home Adaptation (SHA) grants are also available for veterans and service members. Similarly to the SAH, this grant can be used to buy, build, or improve the service member’s permanent home. Recipients of the SHA grant can receive up to $18,074 in fiscal year 2020. But this amount also changes each fiscal year.  

Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grants are available for qualifying veterans or service members too. The two key eligibility criteria for TRA grants are: 

  1. The individual qualifies for both the SAH and SHA grants 
  2. The individual is temporarily living at a family member’s house that needs improvements in order to meet their needs

Veterans or military service members interested in applying for any of the housing grants above can start their application here

More VA Housing Services and Support 

Getting direct financial help from VA home loans and disability housing grants is a great starting point for many veteran home buyers. However, the VA offers other forms of services and support for home buyers and owners. 

For example, veterans interested in applying for a VA loan can check to see if they are exempt from the VA funding fee. The funding fee is a one-time payment that military service members, surviving spouses, or veterans pay on a VA home loan. Certain individuals may not be required to pay this fee if they meet one of the following criteria as described by the VA: 

  • Receiving VA compensation for a service-connected disability, or
  • Eligible to receive VA compensation for a service-connected disability, but you’re receiving retirement or active-duty pay instead, or
  • The surviving spouse of a Veteran who died in service or from a service-connected disability, or who was totally disabled, and you’re receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), or
  • A service member with a proposed or memorandum rating, before the loan closing date, saying you’re eligible to get compensation because of a pre-discharge claim, or
  • A service member on active duty who before or on the loan closing date provides evidence of having received the Purple Heart

Another VA resource veterans can use is housing counselors. The counselors can provide guidance for veterans and service members worried about what to do if they fall behind on mortgage payments. The VA also provides guidance for current and former service members about what to do if their home has been affected by a natural disaster here

Protections from The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) 

There are a number of other financial protections in place for Military service members and veterans that come from the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA was enacted in 2003 and expanded the scope of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (1940). 

The main purpose of the federal law is to provide individuals with greater financial protection as they enter active duty military service. These protections include:

  • Security deposits
  • Mortgage interest rates 
  • Mortgage foreclosures 
  • Rental agreements
  • Prepaid rent
  • civil judicial proceedings
  • Evictions
  • Life health insurance 
  • Income tax payments
  • Installment contracts
  • Credit card interest rates

A few of these are especially relevant for military service members and veteran home buyers. For example, military service members can have their mortgage interest rates capped at 6% for the duration of their service and one year after their service has ended. 

Active duty military members are also protected from non-judicial foreclosures. This means creditors first need to get a court order before foreclosing on the mortgage of a service member. If the creditor violates this part of the law, they can be fined and be imprisoned for up to one year. This protection also extends up to one year after the military member’s service is over. 

The SCRA is full of other, more specific financial protections too that may be relevant to your military service member client as well. 

Work with a Veteran-Friendly Real Estate Agent 

The process of buying a new home can be stressful for everyone. But veteran and military buyers often have additional needs and specific circumstances that can add more stress onto their plate. 

As their real estate agent or REALTOR®, you have the opportunity to be one of their biggest assets while they search for and buy their new home. Partnering with an agent that truly understands their needs is essential for military service members and veteran home buyers. 

For example, your client may need to find a home fast and won’t have time for an in-person viewing of the property. Or, they may need guidance while applying for a VA home loan or disability housing grant.  

One great resource for agents looking to gain more knowledge about working with military clients is the NAR’s Military Relocation Professional (MRP) certification. REALTORS® that earn the certification will learn about the different choices and procedures involved with a military relocation. They’ll also gain a basic understanding of VA loans and other sources of funding so they can better assist clients applying for VA financial help.

Denise Supplee, REALTOR®, property manager, and Co-Founder at SparkRental.com, discusses some important considerations for military service member and veteran buyers: 

“It is important to find a bank, credit union or mortgage broker who is innately familiar with the VA Mortgage.

Additionally, there are many programs and grants that assist the veteran or a surviving spouse. Many of these such as the Dream Makers program offer closing cost assistance. And for a veteran who has any type of disability, there are grants to help make a property handicapped accessible and livable.

Be very careful of scams and predatory lenders. Often these types of lenders will push you to your limits of a qualifying mortgage. This could end up hurting in the long-run by increasing the chances of foreclosure. And there are also scams surrounding foreclosure assistance. Be very careful of scams around “free housing money”.

To prevent these types of scams, do your due diligence. Check out all companies thoroughly. Ask your Realtor if they’ve heard of it. And contact the VA and see if any of these scammers are known.”

One of the best things a real estate agent or REALTOR® can do for their military client is be flexible and come up with smart ways to meet their unique needs. Francine Viola, a REALTOR® at Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, describes how she does this for her clients: 

Francine Viola - Coldwell Banker REALTOR | AgentAdvice.com

“The military buyers and sellers I have worked with typically are pressured by time constraints to make big decisions in a short amount of time regarding their homes, and this is the driver for the type of service I provide.

Realtors working with military buyers should be organized, focused on their housing needs, and understand that this won’t be their forever home. Unlike other buyers who are searching for that perfect home and may have that time to house hunt, military buyers know they will most likely only be in the home for a few years and just need a safe, move-in ready home.

The military client usually doesn’t have the choice of when they want to move – they are told when they need to move. Many active duty military families need a home to move into once they arrive.  In my area, my clients have told me they only have 10 days once they arrive to find a home. Many will buy a home without seeing it in person first, but they need a buyer’s broker they can trust in order to do so.

We also have a large veteran community. One of their criteria is they need to be within a certain radius of the base so they can receive medical care.”